Hello. It’s Me.

This week’s blog was written by WCO graduate assistant and Adele-fan Lily Cason.

Have you seen Saturday Night Live’s recent skit about how Adele’s song “Hello”* can keep your family from fighting at Thanksgiving?


In the video a family gets into some conversation minefields, but the holiday spirit is saved when the family is united by their love of Adele. We all love Adele. Her single “Hello” has reached #1 on the charts in 28 countries and became the first song ever to have more than 1 million digital sales in a week. Adele seems to be universally loved and appreciated.

But “#1” doesn’t just apply to music. There’s another thing that unites us all: water. More than 7 billion people use water every day in every country around the world. I was wondering if maybe water could unite our families at Thanksgiving as well.

Hello from the other siiiide! Those of us who work for water utilities have a special glimpse into a hidden world. In the time that I have been working for the ACC Public Utilities Department, I have learned so much about our infrastructure and the issues we deal with in the water world. I often joke that this job has ruined my life, because I am now obsessed with scraping my dishes clean so as not to send clog-producing fats, oils, and grease down the drain. I make sure to only flush the 4 Ps (Poo, Pee, Puke, and toilet Paper) and throw floss and tissues in the trash instead. I refuse to leave a restaurant water glass without drinking all of the water in it (water conservation and hydration win!). I turn the faucet off while brushing my teeth. I use grey water to water my plants.

Why do I do all of these things? Because I am so grateful to have clean water. In the United States we are lucky to have clean drinking water and wastewater treatment that keeps our waterways clean. So I do what I can to help maintain these systems that I feel so lucky to have. Part of that means sharing what I’ve learned. At the Water Conservation Office we lead tours of our facilities, talk about water in school programs, and post to social media to share what we know.

My friends and family may get tired of hearing about my Adele and water obsessions, but at least I can say that I’ve tried (too much?).

I encourage you to share what you know about water with your loved ones this Thanksgiving. Whether you talk about how to handle the grease left over from your delicious holiday cooking (eg. don’t pour it down the drain), how the water bears that help clean our wastewater can survive in outer space (!), the 2.5 billion people in the world who don’t have access to improved sanitation, or whatever else you find interesting.  Remind your loved ones to conserve and appreciate our water resources because it’s no secret that the both of us…are running out of time.

When my family goes around the table on Thursday to say what we are thankful for, I will definitely say: Adele.

And water too, of course. 🙂

* Here is the original music video for Adele’s “Hello” in case you missed it


Create The Perfect Job Title, Part I

This week’s blog is from Laurie Loftin, Program Specialisthelp-wanted-sign-1isp2ac

I need your help.  I have a task for you and it is not an easy one.  I ask you to create The Perfect Job Title.

The title must be descriptive enough so someone outside the profession has a general idea of what the work entails.  You want the chosen name to give the potential employee pride when announcing their position.   A perfect job title acts as a recruiting tool, so proper wording is vital to attract future applicants.  After careful consideration of every aspect of the job, condense the description into two to four words.

To assist you with this undertaking, let me give you a sampling of the normal duties required of the prospective applicant:

  • Protect the environment from harmful pollutants, impurities, and toxins.
  • Ensure a clean water supply and the good public health of your community.
  • Return reclaimed water, biosolids, and air back to the environment.
  • Conduct laboratory tests, such as biochemical oxygen demand, dissolved oxygen, suspended solids, and pH, required by the Environmental Protection Agency and state regulations.
  • Understand and abide by guidelines of the Clean Water Act.
  • Complete reports and monitoring of all facility equipment to stay within permits.
  • Work with potentially harmful chemicals and hazardous materials.
  • Understand microbiology in order to maintain a healthy ecosystem of microogranisms.
  • Stay abreast of the constantly changing technology in the field.
  • Monitor, operate, and repair all pumps, engines, generators, meters, digesters, blowers, centrifuges, aerators, and gauges in the facility.
  • Remain on call to respond to emergencies and breakdowns in equipment.
  • Maintain the current state licensing and certificates required for employment.
  • Perform other related duties as required.

So you have the assignment.  Craft The Perfect Job Title to sum up the job duties listed above in two to four words.  Please share your suggestions as a comment to this post or on our Facebook page.  Anyone who gives a suggestion is entered into a drawing to win an awesome prize.  I will compile the proposed titles for a future blog in which I share what led me on the quest for The Perfect Job Title.

Thank you for your help.

Use a Clothespin to Treat Wastewater

This week’s blog is by Laurie Loftin, Program Specialist with Water Conservation Office

Imagine yourself wanting to collect and treat up to 28 million gallons of wastewater a day.  What would you need to do this?  Obviously you need some pipes to get the dirty water from point A to B.  Maybe you would want some type of strainer like you use to separate the water from the spaghetti.  Perhaps a clothespin to place on your nose.  Why are you wanting to do this again?

Bruce Perkins, NO Inventory Control Tech

Bruce keeps up with the inventory for our water reclamation facilities.

Treating wastewater is a complex process that requires many moving parts.  The system is in action 24 hours a day, 365 days a year, so it demands continuous maintenance and repair work.  When something stops working as it should, quick repair is critical – especially in the event of a sewage spill, which can contaminate the environment and impact the health of our citizens.   It is important we have all the necessary parts on hand to quickly make repairs and keep our wastewater system running smoothly.  In Athens, GA it is the responsibility of our inventory control technicians, Kevin and Bruce, to ensure that all necessary parts are available at a moments notice.

Kevin is responsible for the many components needed for sewer lines. Bruce focuses his efforts on equipment and supplies used in our water reclamation facilities. They inspect all incoming shipments for correct contents and price before moving the items into the warehouse by forklift. They keep the warehouse carefully organized, allowing for accurate tracking of stock locations and levels. When something is needed for heavy equipment repair or the water reclamation plants and pump stations, Kevin and Bruce quickly and efficiently disperse the parts.

Kevin Bright, W&S Inventory Control Tech

The inventory for our sewer lines is kept in check by Kevin.

Maintaining an essential supply of equipment and parts can be expensive. Kevin and Bruce work every day to locate the best prices to help keep costs low and wastewater treatment affordable for all of us who depend on wastewater services. Providing cost-conscious, dependable inventory control that is essential for reliable wastewater services and safeguarding our public health is what our inventory technicians do everyday.

Kevin and Bruce, if you ever need any help finding inexpensive colanders or clothespins for treating up to 28  million gallons of wastewater, let me know and I’ll see what I can do.  Until then, know that you two are unsung heroes to the people in Athens-Clarke County.

The Unsung Heroes of Water Reclamation

Cholera, dysentery, typhoid, oh, my! These diseases often pose a threat in developing countries that lack sanitation services.  Fortunately for Athenians and most Americans, we have state-of-the-art water reclamation systems designed to remove the harmful microorganisms and parasites responsible for such deadly diseases.  The treatment processes found at these facilities also remove pollutants that are harmful to our water resources, aquatic life, and environment. The water you send down the drain each and every day is reclaimed, refreshed, and returned safely to our local waterways.

Harold Green is the supervisor for the Cedar Creek WRF.

Harold Green is the supervisor for the Cedar Creek WRF.

So who are the people providing us with wastewater services that keep our waters clean and protect our quality of life? In this and upcoming blogs, I would like to introduce you to a few of the dedicated Public Utilities Department employees who have taken on these indispensable jobs in the Athens, GA area.  Lucky for us, these unsung heroes are performing essential – and often not so glamorous – tasks that are vital to the health of our community. They make sure you have safe and reliable wastewater services 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, 365 days a year.Today we start with the water reclamation facility supervisors, who ensure that the water you send down the drain is properly cleaned and safe before being returned to the source. Not only do they help protect our environment in Athens-Clarke County, but their work also helps safeguard the quality of water sources for communities downstream from us.  The responsibility is huge – our three complex, state-of-the art facilities operate 24 hours a  day and are capable of treating a total of up to 28  million gallons of wastewater a day!

Jameson Goolsby supervises the flow at the Middle Oconee WRF.
Jameson Goolsby supervises the flow at the Middle Oconee WRF.

Our supervisors have a thorough knowledge of all federal, state, and local wastewater treatment standards, regulations, and policies. Their technical skills extend from performing standard chemical tests to the ability to operate and maintain the wide variety of equipment used. They oversee all plant operations, monitor the treatment processes, and make adjustments as needed to consistently produce high quality reclaimed water. Under their watchful eyes, all processes run smoothly and meet or exceed environmental regulations.  In addition to supervising the technical operations, they also are responsible for staff management.  As skilled administrative managers, they ensure proper safety and training, appropriate work assignments, and efficient work shift schedules.

Our water reclamation facility supervisors are integral to providing the sanitation services that are critical to a safe and healthy quality of life for our community. They, along with many others, keep the terrible three – cholera, dysentery, and typhoid – from plaguing our area.  They are, indeed, unsung heroes!

Visit the Water Resources Center

Stop 3. Water Resources Center

Our journey continues in search of buildings, businesses, and organizations that demonstrate water conservation methods in Athens-Clarke County. The next stop is the Bob Snipes Water Resources Center (WRC) located off Barber Street (I’m sure you’ve seen it on your way to Terrapin 🙂 The WRC is a water and wastewater laboratory along with an educational facility. It highlights 5 sustainable and water saving elements both within and around the building. We will discuss each of these 5 elements over the next few blogs.

The first element is the actual building itself. The WRC is Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) certified. What exactly is LEED, you ask?? Well, LEED is an international green building certification program that ensures the entire lifecycle of a building is environmentally friendly.

The WRC gained LEED status by:

  • Installing WaterSense efficient plumbing fixtures to reduce water waste by 40%
  • Recycling 75% of construction debris
  • Designing the roof to minimize heat absorption and maximize energy efficiency
  • Planting drought-tolerant plants to reduce water used by irrigation
  • Including education in the design

WaterSense dual flush toilet meets EPA criteria

Construction of the Roof

Educational Displays in the Atrium

The benefits of the WRC as a LEED building include reduction in operating costs, reduction in construction waste sent to landfills, conservation of water and energy, providing healthier and safer environment for workers and visitors, and reduction in greenhouse gas emissions. The public is welcome to visit the WRC Monday through Friday 8:30am – 4:30pm.

Originally posted on waterconservationstation.blogspot.com, 4/9/13

Thank you, Athens-Clarke County Citizens

I hate to be a party pooper, but the 50 year celebration of wastewater treatment in Athens-Clarke County (ACC) must come to a close.  Athenians are fortunate to have essential and exceptional wastewater services that safely reclaim, refresh, and returnthe water we use to the environment. Our treatment systems have continually grown and improved as the community has expanded and technology has advanced over the last 50 years. Water reclamation plays a significant role in our health and quality of life in Athens. 

During our celebration we have highlighted several of our dedicated ACC Public Utilities employees in the “Unsung Hero” section of the ACC website.  Lucky for us, they are performing essential – and often not so glamorous – jobs that are vital to the health of our community. These unsung heroes make sure that you have safe and reliable wastewater services 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, 365 days a year.

Lily Anne Phibian reminds us toilets are not trash cans!

Lily Anne Phibian reminds us toilets are not trash cans!

Before we end our commemoration, we must acknowledge one more unsung hero in the world of wastewater. This person does not work for ACC, but plays a significant role in the treatment of our effluent.  Who is it?  YOU, the beneficiary of improved sanitation in Athens. After potable water is used, it becomes wastewater.  It is created with the flush of a toilet, the washing of dishes, the rinsing of clothes, and the draining of a bathtub.  We all contribute to the outflow, whether it is from our own homes or used by local businesses to produce the items and services we consume.

Tommy Hall recycles used FOG at one of several collection sites in ACC.

Tommy Hall recycles used FOG at one of several collection sites in ACC.

The citizens’ role in wastewater treatment is more than a passive one.  Anything and everything you put down the toilet or drain has an effect on our water reclamation facilities (WRF).  Our systems are equipped to handle the usual suspects found in wastewater: pee, poo, and paper.  However, other items, such as plastics, prophylactics, paper towels, baby wipes, and pharmaceuticals, are harmful to the WRF equipment.  Fats, oils, and greases (FOG) result in clogs, which lead to sewer overflows.  We thank you, another one of our unsung heroes, for remembering your toilets and sinks are not trash cans.  We thank you for putting FOG in the trash can or recycling it to protect our waters.

Athens Counsel on Aging conserved water by replacing exisiting toilets with new, low-flow ones and also repaired leaks.

Athens Counsel on Aging conserved water by replacing exisiting toilets with new, low-flow ones and also repaired leaks.

We appreciate all of your efforts toward water conservation. Like anything else used daily, the components of the WRF suffer from wear and tear.  Larger volumes of wastewater entering the plant contribute to this deterioration.  Efficient water use in your household improves the functioning of our WRFs, increases the lifetime of each facility, and reduces maintenance and repair costs. We ended 2012 with a greater appreciation for you, and all of the Unsung Heroes, who helped Athens-Clarke County reach 50 years of successfully reclaiming, refreshing, and returning our waters to the source.  This has been something to celebrate.  Party on.Thank you.

Laurie Loftin

Originally posted on waterconservationstation.blogspot.com, 1/8/13


Festival Success!

I’m going to break up the monotony a little and give you a Picture Blog this week!  I’ll spend less time talking and more time sharing adorable pictures with you.

The Athens Water Festival went off without a hitch last weekend: everyone had a good time, and our local water (rain) even showed up at the end!

We had a ton of fun games for the festival-goers to play.  Kids and adults all seemed to enjoy them!

We had:

H2Olympics! A game about water’s cohesive properties and surface tension: this guy is counting how many drops of water will balance on a penny!

A pollution game: kids had to remove trash from their “ponds” so the water would be clean and safe!

A water truck from the fire station, so kids could see what it’s like and see how it uses water! (I mean, who doesn’t love playing in a fire truck??)

A macro-invertebrate station where kids could find and learn how to identify water bugs!

Testing water quality with Adopt-A-Stream.

We had some awesome animals (that need water, of course) from Warnell School of Forestry and Natural Resources!  The school ambassadors came to talk about how these animals use water.

Fats, Oils, and Greases, Oh My!  Kids learned how FOGs clog our sewer pipes and cause sewer overflows.  They created FOG cans for kitchen grease; don’t put it down the drain!

Toilet Toss Trivia!  Should I flush this down the toilet?  If you have to ask the question, the answer is NO!  Plastics, baby wipes, and other things clog our sewer lines and cause yucky sewer spills.

Even the parents got into it with the “Parachute the Litter” game.

The kids learned about meeting community water needs with this fun “Long Haul” water relay!

And, of course, we had a huge water slide just for fun!

Parents and kids alike had a great time learning about water conservation, water use, and what’s in our water, all while having fun with these games!  Team Water could not have done it without the help of all the local organizations and our beautiful volunteers!

Thanks to everyone who made this a fun weekend that left everyone saying H20-yeah!

Originally posted on waterconservationstation.blogspot.com, 9/11/12